I have liked country music my entire life, but I truly caught the country music bug in high school. I went through various musical phases overtime but generally my big three have always been country, rock, and rap. Until high school, rock and rap edged out country but around 10th grade that changed in a major way. I became obsessed with country music; all forms of country,mainstream, underground, alternative, classic; everything. I dabbled into the greats such as Waylon, George Jones, Steve Earle, and Vern Godsin. I loved the super-poppy artists such as Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, and Luke Bryan. All the way down to Texas Country with Josh Abbot, Corey Morrow, and Reckless Kelly. I honestly like it all.
I scoffed at the ‘old-timers’ who called new country terrible and yearned for the days of Hank Williams. They claimed it was too infused with rock, shallow, and boring. I loved it. I loved the rock influences; in the beginning I even loved the rap influences. Why wouldn’t I? It was a combination of my three favorite genres. It made sense to me, and still does. The new country artists were just as heavily influenced by 60s, 70s, and 80s rock as they were with classic country. They didn’t grow up listening to Merle Haggard at parties; they grew up listening to AC/DC. They loved country but rock was cool. When they began making their own music they fused the two. That was awesome and I supported this new country sound 100%.
But as we enter the middle part of the new decade everything has changed. Country music has officially become terrible. New artists are not making country music. They are not even making good music. If it was good but not necessarily country I could deal with it. It is not good, and most of it is horrendous. New country is the product of a corporate and greedy machine. The culture of country music has to change.
I am not an expert in music. I can’t go into the technical details of what distinguishes genres. I don’t want to and I don’t really care to. I like music. I understand that country is distinguished by a few key instruments: fiddle, banjo, steel guitar, slide guitar and the list can go and on. I understand the reluctance from country traditionalists to accept new elements to their music. But this is not my position. I am not claiming for a change in how country sounds. (Honestly I am but I believe there is a bigger issue that must be addressed.) Country and adjectives such as rebel, outlaw, outsider and independent go together. They should go together. Country music is supposed to be the voice of rural and small town America. It is supposed to be the voice of people who live their lives they way they want. They do not conform. They don’t care what anyone says about them whether it be city slickers or country-folk. They live their lives however they desire and their music sure as hell reflects that.
Nashville is currently dominated by the same personalities that litter Hollywood and Wall Street. They are driven by greed and personal gain. They are very smart people. They know what sells. And that is their motivation: what sells. When hiring new artists, songwriters, and producer, execs are concerned with what will make them the most money. They figure out a formula and milk it for all it’s worth. As country music began to move away from a more traditional sound it gained a wider audience. Crossover artists became very common. This process has ben ongoing for decades. Country music became a gold mind. Major record labels began to flood Nashville. It was not a huge problem, in my opinion, until very recent. I may not have agreed with it but at least the content was still good. But a very definite formula was invented. And the record labels realized the people could not get enough of it.
As the world becomes increasingly more materialistic so does country music. Today’s country music panders to the very things that it stands diabolically opposite of. It all leads back to the money people in control. The product is watered-down to the max. The same song is being released over-and-over again. The songs are clichéd and unoriginal. The culture of country music has become shallow and predictable. Something has to be done to change it.
*This post was basically my rambling I feel very strongly about this topic and I wanted to get this overview out there. There have been signs recently that paint a positive picture for the future of country music. I will be adding many posts in the future that delve much deeper into this topic. I will single out specific individuals (artists, producers, songwriters, and execs) who are both hurting and helping country music. But main objective will be to stay positive and shed some light on some great artists who deserve more spotlight. Thanks for reading.